If October had team colors, they would have to be orange and black. The month is practically synonymous with Halloween. Local events prove the point with more and more thrilling, fun and exciting activities every year. We’ve gathered a dozen of the most kid-friendly Halloween events around Pittsburgh, some new and some annual favorites. Ready, set, boo!
- The Glow
Hartwood Acres is the site for a massive walk-through Halloween display and festival called The Glow: A Jack-O-Lantern Experience. Pittsburgh is one of four cities chosen for The Glow this year. Stroll the trail to view more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns in a variety of displays. Look for dinosaurs, a pirate ship under the sea, and local celebrity pumpkins like Mister Rogers. Watch master pumpkin carvers working on their craft and feel free to ask for tips for your at-home carving. The Glow includes a pumpkin patch and food vendors. Timed, advance tickets are required.
- Zoo Boo and Pumpkin Palooza
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium launches October fun with Pumpkin Palooza on Oct. 6. Decorate a pumpkin and play pumpkin games. Nibble on yummy pumpkin snacks and sip delicious drinks. Meet some of the friendly animal ambassadors for an up close and personal visit with zoo inhabitants. Registration requires an additional fee over admission.
The annual ZooBoo takes over on Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 20-28. Free with admission, kids can dress in costumes for the Halloween parade and trick-or-treat throughout the zoo. Pop into the kid-friendly Haunt Spots, find your way through the hay maze, and show off your maker skills in Casper’s Craft Corner. Meet kid-approved character heroes and sheroes along the way – and don’t forget to visit with the animals, too.
- Cereal Cinema: ‘Hocus Pocus’
Hello, breakfast! Row House Cinema planned a special Halloween-focused Cereal Cinema with a screening of “Hocus Pocus” on Oct. 13. The all-you-can-eat cereal bar will offer gluten-free and dairy alternatives, as well as coffee for mom and dad. The $13 ticket includes movie admission and breakfast.
The PG-rated “Hocus Pocus” is recommended for ages 10 and older. The 1993 film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as a comic coven of witches who are released from a 300-year spell on Halloween. A group of kids must find their book of spells to save the day.
If you can’t make the Cereal Cinema screening, “Hocus Pocus” will be scheduled throughout the week of Oct.12-18. Warning: This could be the start of a family Halloween tradition.
- Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival
This free new-to-the-Burgh event takes over the North Shore on Oct. 20 and 21. A highlight of the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival is a type of regatta never seen on our rivers. The Great Pumpkin Paddle puts competitors in humongous carved-out pumpkin “boats” in a silly race down the Allegheny River. Dessert fans will love the Pumpkin Pie Plunge, a pie-eating contest. Kids can take a whack at the Pumpkin Pinata, a giant pumpkin filled with candy, and spend some time at the Pumpkin Decorating Station.
- ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
A wonderful way to introduce kids to the symphony orchestra is to watch a favorite film with the score played by the Pittsburgh Symphony. A perfect one is PG-rated “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The Tim Burton animated classic will play on the big screen behind the orchestra playing the award-winning Danny Elfman score.
Don’t let the Christmas in the title throw you off. This story is about the King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, who decides to inject Christmas spirit into the town’s boring Halloween celebration.
Kids who can appreciate music without the film incentive might find a deeper appreciation in the symphony’s performances of “Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” on Oct. 12-14. “Batman,” “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands” are part of the selections.
Idlewild Park continues its top-of-the-charts family fun with HallowBoo!, running weekends through Oct. 28. Come in costume to trick-or-treat through Story Book Forest. Dance to the Jack-O-Lantern Jive and join Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittycat in a playful show of songs and make-believe. Scream with excitement on the spinning, flying rides and calm down on the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad for a full day of amusement.
- Rocky Horror Brass
Kids in high school marching bands will love this one: The 28-member River City Brass Band takes its ”Rocky Horror Brass” performances to five area venues from Oct. 4-11. The show will cover familiar haunting tunes from stage and film, including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh mounts its family-friendly harvest festival on Oct. 20 and 27. Owl-O-Ween welcomes costumed kids to encounters with owls, raptors and night-time creatures. Crafts, candy and other treats are part of the lineup.
- Boo To You Too!
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh regularly schedules sensory-friendly programs for kids. A cool Halloween party, Boo To You Too, is planned for Oct. 28. The all-ages program is designed as a judgment-free zone for kids and adults with sensory sensitivities.
- Halloween Spook-Tacular
The Family Screen begins showings at dusk with a G-rated Halloween cartoon, followed by “Goosebumps 2” (PG), “The House with a Clock in the Walls” (PG), and “Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (PG). Screen Three offers old-school horror from the ‘50s to ‘70s with movies like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “Frankenstein vs. Dracula,” which might incite more laughs than screams.
Arrive early – gates open at 4 p.m. – for Trunk-or-Treat, a different take on the Halloween tradition, plus great prizes for costumes and decorated cars. Special Pumpkin Funnel Cake and apple cider star among the snack bar lineup.
- Creatures of the Night
This family-friendly Halloween series comes from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. During Creatures of the Night, kids venture through nature reserves led by costumed nocturnal characters, such as Firefly, a Great Horned Owl or the Little Brown Bat. Each will share stories from stop to stop in this entertaining and educational event. Refreshments and treats will be offered along the way.
Creatures of the Night will take place on Oct 19 and 20 at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, Fox Chapel; Oct 26 at Succop Nature Park, Penn Township; and Oct 27 at Buffalo Creek Nature Center, Sarver. Registration is required.
- Trash Your Popcorn
Technically speaking, Halloween is over by the time Row House Cinema throws its Trash Your Popcorn bash on Nov. 3. But really, can Halloween end before the candy is gone?
We love this idea to give a bag of popcorn a gourmet flavor jolt by tossing in M&Ms, chocolate, Gummi Bears and other choice bits from your trick-or-treat bag. Or make selections from the candy bar, included in the prices of admission, along with a medium bag of popcorn. Then, enjoy your sugar high with classic cartoons, plus comic shorts starring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. We think of it as a foodie cinematic experience.